Monday, September 7, 2009

Why Michael Jackson Sucks

In elementary school, I had a music teacher who was one of the least pleasant women I have ever encountered. She sat her students, who were about eight years old, in front of keyboards they weren't allowed to touch and singled out those who didn't sing in tune with the rest of us. After I left the school, she got in trouble for throwing a book at a kid. The only time I remember enjoying her class was the week of Halloween, when she let us listen to Halloween-themed music, including the Ghostbusters theme and "Thriller," by Michael Jackson. Very few of us kids knew who Michael Jackson was, but we liked listening to the song way better than practicing "When the Saints Go Marching In" on our recorders.

Our reaction to Jackson's music wasn't exactly unique. A lot of people liked his songs and liked watching him dance around singing them. It's been nearly three months since Jackson died of a doctor-administered drug overdose and here in Brooklyn, I still hear his music floating around from open car windows and block-party boomboxes. Dozens of stores are selling quickly-produced t-shirts and buttons with both young and old Michael Jacksons on them. Someone spray-painted his likeness onto a fence near my house. And nine days ago there was a birthday party for him in Prospect Park.

The birthday party is ironic for a couple of reasons. Number one, no one would have cared much about his birthday if he was still alive, and number two, if Jackson were alive he would have preferred to celebrate surrounded by twelve-year-olds and the skeletons of deformed people. But the party, along with the memorabilia market and the overloading of Twitter, prove that, strangely, a lot of people really like Michael Jackson.

I don't think it's strange that people like Jackson's music. That guy wrote some catchy stuff and had a great voice (not to mention a lot of talented musicians playing and Quincy Jones producing). But Jackson as a person is another story--he was essentially an eccentric millionaire who exhibited a bizarre combination of naivete and arrogance.

Consider his molestation trial: he showed up twenty minutes late for a hearing, mumbled some answers to the judge, and danced around in front of the court house for his fans. He eventually got acquitted, after which he denounced the media for causing all his problems (whenever someone blames the media, you know it's an exaggeration at best) and retreated even further from the public eye. Yet his fans said things like this: “He stands for so much, all the goodness in the world and innocence.” (That's one of his supporters from England, quoted in the above link.)

No, he doesn't stand for all the goodness and innocence in the world. If you are idolizing Jackson because of what he stands for, you need new idols. The man became famous for singing and dancing, then mostly stopped doing both in order to become an increasingly unhinged drug addict--the only difference between him and Amy Winehouse is that he was more successful before his life fell apart.

In fact, I'm not sure Jackson ever tried to stand for much in particular. Sure, he had some nice "racism is bad" and "let's all love one another" songs, but so does every pop artist. As a lyricist, he was a step above Prince but not exactly Dylan-esque. I mean, his most famous line is probably that weird "shamona!" yell, right? And when he became fabulously wealthy he spent his money on prescription drugs and a private amusement park. You tell me how to turn that into someone worth admiring.

To me, Jackson represents a fundamental truth of popular culture: if you are famous enough, a lot of people will like you pretty much no matter what you do. Popularity has become a virtue in and of itself. Or maybe it's impossible for people to like a work of art without getting attached to the artist. It's hard to read The Cantos by Ezra Pound and think of Pound as a Fascist, and it's hard to listen to Thriller and picture Jackson as anything other than a paragon of virtue.

But whatever Jackson was, he wasn't a paragon. He was pretty damned good at singing and dancing, but that's pretty much it. He made some music that practically everyone liked, but he didn't seem interested in recording new music anymore. I liked "Thriller," but I liked the Ghostbusters song too, and I'm pretty sure I won't be in mourning when the guy who recorded that dies.


  1. And what was Michael Jackson trying to become with his plastic surgery and skin pigment alterations, if that's what they were? (See the ghastly visage above and think of Jackson.) Was he trying to become Liz Taylor? Was he so miserable because he didn't really want to be Michael Jackson? Yes, we certainly need to find new idols and pity the false ones, like super wealthy, super miserable Michael Jackson.

  2. When someone calls themselves writing an essay, it's important to do your homework so you know what the fuck you're talking about and not come off looking like an ignorant ass.

    Because if what you said was true, OJ Simpson and Gary Glitter wouldn't have met such a strong demise had it not been for the fact that they WERE in fact GUILTY. Also, Michael could do more than just sing and dance. If you took 2 seconds to do some research you would understand why people make such a big deal about him.

  3. You call this an essay lolzzz .... this is the worst piece of trash that I have ever seen. Brother you haven't done any research and your essay on why Michael Jackson sucks is totally pointless and worthless. He was not just a normal musician, he was the first black singer to be famous at MTV and perform at the MTV awards. Furthermore, he was one of the few artists who have contributed highest share of his income towards charity. Moreover, if you have any slight knowledge of his music, then please listen to Black or White, Man in the Mirror, Your not alone, Heal the World, We are the World etc and tell me how on earth it hasn't sent a peaceful message to the people in the world. Brother you honestly need some life ... its easy to criticize people and stars, but try to be like them .... you cannot cuz you SUCK !!!

  4. It seems like this is one of the posts that gets a lot of hits, so I'll make a couple things clear for the Jackson fans:

    1. Obviously, I'm not trying to say Michael Jackson wasn't a great musician and dancer. I compared Thriller to Ezra Pound's Cantos, which is pretty high praise, no?

    2. I'm not saying his message wasn't "positive," I'm just saying his lyrics were often absurdly simple-minded. We have to all get along, make the world a better place? Alright Mike, got it.

    And if Integrasama is reading this, I'm not sure what he was trying to say about OJ and Gary Glitter. OJ, like MJ, got acquitted, right?

  5. And a simple message is bad? He was one of the first people to adress enviromental issues and other issues in a musical form. If you know anything about him, obviously a lot of people like him and will hear those lyrics. Not all but many will most likely be driven to do at least something. Lyrics don't need to be complex to get the point across. Simpler is better.

    Don't rag on someone for being simple if the writing quality of your essay is equivalent to that of an 8th grader.

  6. Are you serious? You think all Michael Jackson did to spread goodness is to sing about it in songs? That really tells me how much you know about Michael Jackson....because IN FACT he gave millions and millions of dollars to charity. He actually is one of the most giving celebrities,if not THE most...I know he holds the record for most charities supported.He donated ALL of his earnings from the Victory Tour and at least most of his earnings from the Dangerous Tour to charities. He gave away hundreds and hundreds of tickets in each city to poor children. Also in each city he visited orphanages and hospitals and if he found a child who was in dire need of an operation HE made sure that the child got what they needed ASAP and paid for it. He started Heal the World Foundation and opened his home to needy children. If what MJ did isn't considered standing for his beliefs by example and by practice....i don't know what is.

    Also...MJ has said that some songs (Heal the World, We are the World for example) he made simple ON PURPOSE because he wanted them to be anthem-like so that anyone could sing them and everyone could remember them. Which...makes a heck of a lot of sense...if you make it too complicated then sadly a lot of people aren't going to get the message at all. AND...not all his songs are "simple" as you took his "help the world" songs and made those his "norm"

    And as far as the "not interested in recording music anymore"...Michael never was a "Bieber" or a "Gaga" who puts out an album every year. He had 3 yrs between OTW and Thriller,then 5,4,4,6 between the next ones. This Is It would have been 8 yrs...which for a guy who had 3 kids and was in his upper forties...i think is really quite understandable. Point is...I'm not sure your evidence to the fact that he wasn't interested in recording.He probably wanted to slow down...but he loved music too much to not want to continue making it.

    Bottom should probably do your research first before making unfounded claims about someone has famous/well-known as Michael Jackson.

  7. Michael Jackson is a good guy. but i dont know why he got plastic surgery? wasnt he proud that he was the first black singer to get famous on MTV? like Lenvill said? sry michael jackson fans. i dont rely know alot about jackson so excuse me if ther is areason why he got plastic surgery

  8. in your dreams Michael was/is/always be the best
    ask 8 year old kids now who Michael Jackson is shit I know 13 month old babies that know who Michael is you don't know what the f/ck your talking about and neither does that "so called" Teacher

  9. @Don
    you can blame his father and brothers for calling him big nose when he was little and they called him ugly all the time when in all reality he was the cutest Jackson of them all besides Jackie he was cute also.
    and he had a low self esteem because of how the medialoids treated him and the lies about him.
    Michael was always innocent. how would you feel if you went through that all of your life?